Chocolate Bunny 2010

Chocolate Bunny is quickly becoming my new favorite holiday tradition. What better way to celebrate Easter than by running 26+ miles on gnarly MMT trails with good friends in the middle of the night? If ultrarunning is my religion, then the mountains are my church and running the night section of the MMT 100 course seems like an adequate way to pay homage to the trail-running gods… or something like that.  Or maybe I just love this run because you get a chocolate bunny at the finish line?  Yeah, that’s probably it.

It was a beautiful night with temps in the 80′s. About 30 folks showed up to run the supposed 26.2 miles of the MMT course, the section commonly known as Gap-to-Gap (roughly miles 69-95 of the course).  We started just before sundown and ran into the wee hours of the night.

While running with Mario Raymond, the two of us missed the turn onto the purple trail and continued running downhill for a mile and half or so.  This turned a long 11 mile stretch into an even longer 13.5 mile stretch that had us begging for fluids by the time we reached the second (of two) aid stations.  Aside from that one small mishap (and it seems we weren’t the only ones to miss a turn), everyone had a great time while polishing up on their rock maneuvering and mountain climbing skills.

All in all it was an absolutely beautiful night with bright stars filling the clear sky and abundant rocks filling the not-so-clear trail.  It had been a few months since I had been out on my beloved MMT Trails, but as with every run out there the pain just makes me love these trails even more.

I finished up around 1:00am, running 28.65 miles in 6:03 – definitely not the fastest run out there but not bad considering the additional mileage. I was the 3rd one in behind Sean Andrish and Keith Knipling.

Now if only I could actually get off the MMT waiting list and be able to run the damn thing…

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Terrapin Mountain 50k – 2010 race report

Terrapin Mountain 50k logo

Terrapin Mountain 50k is a great race put on by my friend and Liberty University professor, Clark Zealand.  It is race #2 in the Beast Series and offers a beautiful yet challenging course in the George Washington National Forest, sharing some of the Promise Land 50k and Hellgate 100k courses.

If you recall, around the New Year I was having some slight issues with my peroneal tendon after I rolled my ankle pretty bad.  The problem was exacerbated by a certain pair of shoes (New Balance MT100′s, I still love them) but it resolved itself after some rest.  Well, having thought the problem was gone after some successful runs at Holiday Lake and R2R2R, I went for a run in these shoes about a week before race day.  Lo-and-behold, the peroneal became reirritated so I was forced to lay off running up until Terrapin.  I didn’t know how it would hold up, but wanting to stay in the Beast I decided to cautiously proceed with my racing plans (and with a goal to just finish, not race).

Having just experienced some beautiful 70 degree weather, the mid 20′s on race morning were an unpleasant surprise.  No worries, the weather would eventually become absolutely gorgeous later in the day.

Image courtest of eco-x sports

A down jacket while stretching and still freezing

At 7:00am Clark banged the gong (really Clark?) and we headed out.  The first 3/4 mile is on flat road, and with 50k and half-marathoners running together this made for some speedy pavement pounding, eerily similar to a marathon.  As soon as the road ended we started the climb up to Camping Gap, an aid station that we would hit 3 times throughout the day.  I wasn’t necessarily planning on running this 3-mile climb, but the peroneal felt absolutely fine so I allowed myself to get dragged along by the front pack.

After the climb came a brutal 5-mile descent.  Now normally some good fast downhill cruising feels great to start out a race, but this extended descent on gravel road meant faster-than-usual paces, and consequently trashed-earlier-than-usual quads.  Honestly, it was friggin fast.  I apparently ran 6:02′s, and a few days later I am now paying the price and can’t walk down steps.

Me and Jack Kurisky

Much of the first half of the race was run on gravel road, and the elevation was fairly binary.  Either you were climbing or you were pummeling downhill.  I kept company with Jack Kurisky, Keith Knipling and Darryl Smith for a lot of this running, but as we came into Camping Gap for the second time (mile 16.4), I realized that I was giving a harder-than-planned effort and staying with these guys would mean keeping up the pace.  The Beast Series is my focus of the year, and yes I’d love to do well in it, but I did not plan or train for Terrapin to be at race effort, and as I’ve learned before, an unplanned hard effort can bring negative consequences.  Acknowledging this fact, I let them pull away and I started stopping to take pictures whenever the opportunity arose.  It seemed to work and the second half of the run was at a much more relaxed pace.

After the second stint at Camping Gap came a nice climb up and around the White Oak Ridge.  At the top we would find our first orienteering punch (to prove we did the loop).  As I was approaching the punch, Justine Morrison appeared out of nowhere looking speedy as always.  In a normal race I’d fight to the death if given an opportunity to prevent being chicked, but given my earlier decision to tone it down, I took a picture and let Justine pass, continuing on to chick more and more of the suckers ahead.  She ended up finishing ninth overall and beating out the second place woman by more than 20 minutes.  A true rockstar, to say the least.

Justine Morrison at Terrapin Mtn 50k - 2010

Justine at orienteering punch #1

Coming down the White Oak Ridge, I started passing runners coming in the opposite direction.  This is always a good time, yelling encouragements  to strangers (“Looking good, keep it up!”) and taking pictures and heckling friends (“Oh dear god what is that bright yellow thing coming towards me?”).  If you don’t get that second reference, see the picture I snapped of Alisa below.  She was so fast (or so bright) that she was blurry.

Alisa Springman running the White Oak Ridge

Neon Alisa

After the downhill meet-and-greet section we hit Camping Gap for the third and final time (mile 22.1).  Leaving, we were immediately greeted by some fairly technical trail (a first for the day) and a good climb up Terrapin Mountain.  Orienteering punch #2 was located on a rock ledge with a spectacular view at the top of the mountain, then we started our descent which quickly lead to punch #3.  This one was located immediately after Fat Man’s Misery, an angled, narrow and slippery passageway between two giant boulders.  Seriously, this thing is a sonofabitch.  Don’t let the picture of Mario below fool you, he’s a small dude (no offense my man) and it is downright dangerous passing through here.  Oh the things we do for running.

Mario Raymond in Fat Man's Misery

Mario Raymond in Fat Man's Misery

After the fat man we had a good gnarly technical downhill, just to be sure that if there was any strength left in your quads, there wouldn’t be at the finish.  The rocks in this section were big, loose and scattered – a perfect storm for rolling ankles and eliminating Beast Series racers.  Needless to say, I stayed super focused and applied the brakes liberally on this descent.

At the very bottom of the descent was Terrapin Mtn Lane aid station (mile 25.6), a brief half-mile ascent, and then a long rolling cruise on singletrack as we headed towards the finish.  There were plenty of stream crossings in this section, but surprisingly they weren’t overflowing as one might expect after a record snowfall has just melted.  I’m not complaining.

At this point, I came across a group of soldiers wearing full uniforms including combat boots and rucksacks.  The lead soldier carried an American flag.  They marched/hiked the half-marathon course and were coming into the last two miles of their long slow hike.  One soldier offered me his ruck but I politely declined, mustering something about not wanting to take away from his sense of accomplishment.  Either way, that was pretty cool seeing them out there carrying the flag.

Soldier carrying American Flag at Terrapin Mtn 50k

Americaaaa

With a little more than a mile to go, the course turned back on to the road we had started with.  This was a very welcome sign (as was the “one mile to go” sign), and within no time I was coming across the field at the Sedalia Center, finishing in 5:03:51, good for 12th place overall and 11th male.

The post-race lounging was a great time.  There was good BBQ, hanging with VHTRC and Lynchburg friends, and watching runners come in while looking out onto a mountainous backdrop on a beautiful day.  You really can’t ask for anything more…

VHTRC at Terrapin Mtn 50k

VHTRC peeps

LINKS:
Full results
My pictures on Flickr

Grand Canyon Rim-to-(almost)Rim-to-Rim

March 5, 2010

The Game Plan: Starting at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, run down the South Kaibab Trail (7.2 miles), connect with the North Kaibab Trail and take it as far as possible up to the North Rim (13.7 miles), turn around, retrace steps along the North Kaibab (13.7 miles) and take the Bright Angel Trail back out to the South Rim (9.6 miles).  Total mileage: 44.2 (or 46, depending on your source of information).

R2R2R map from my GPS

The Twist: Although Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (R2R2R) has become a popular run among ultrarunners, most attempts are done in Spring or Fall months when temperatures are pleasant at the Rims, hot in the Canyon, and most of the water sources are open for business.  A conference for work landed me in Arizona in late-winter, and not being one to pass up an opportunity, I went full steam ahead on R2R2R planning.  Then, a week or so before the run I learned that the Grand Canyon was hit with near-record-breaking amounts of snow with reports of three feet of untouched powder roughly two miles down the North Kaibab Trail.  Awesome.  So, I packed my snowshoes for the trip and accepted the fact that a full R2R2R might not be possible.

Day before the run, getting hit with lots of snow

The Story: When the alarm went off at 5:00am Friday morning, I was hoping to hear that Vince’s recent illness had miraculously disappeared.  Vince, an ultra buddy of mine that graciously flew out to Arizona so I wouldn’t have to run a solo double-crossing of the Grand Canyon, had been battling a cold all week and was hoping that things would settle by game-time Friday morning.  Sadly, they did not, but since he was already out there he wanted to run as far he comfortably could.  We planned on running down to Phantom Ranch together and from there, depending on how Vince was feeling, we would either continue together or part ways and I continue up towards the North Rim while he made his way back up to the South Rim.  Phantom Ranch was a perfect location for this as the South Kaibab, Bright Angel and North Kaibab trails all meet just north of the Colorado River was.  Being solo, I opted to not bring along my snowshoes as they would likely tempt me into crossing dangerous trail sections.  Instead, I acknowledged that my turnaround might come earlier than planned, but so long as I went as far as safely possible I would be contempt.

We drove to a small unmarked parking area maybe a half-mile from the South Kaibab trail head, parked, and hit the ground running.  Temperatures hovered in the high teens and the sun was starting to poke its head out.  We hit the South Kaibab trail right around 6:30am and instantly we were greeted with snowy and icy switchbacks.  We put on our Yaktrax to be safe and within 10 minutes we were stopping to take them back off.  Temperatures and trail conditions changed rapidly in those first three or four miles, and within 40 minutes, as we were stopping to stare in awe as the sun lit up the canyon, I had stripped off my windbreaker, longsleeve shirt, gloves, headband, and now was down to just a t-shirt and arm warmers.

Slow running w/ switchbacks & water erosion bars

Water erosion bars quickly became our least favorite things in the world, followed closely second by the smell of mule poop.  The joys of the Grand Canyon, right?  High-stepping and poop-smelling aside, there is just no real way to describe the grandiosity of this canyon, especially knowing that over the course of half a day you will run across it twice.

Coming down the South Kaibab

With the constant stopping for photo ops and canyon gazing, it was a slow trip down to Phantom Ranch.  The seven miles took just under two hours.  I remember this because Phantom Ranch did not open until 8:30am and we still had a few minutes to spare.  This was our first opportunity to refuel, and as I was topping off my bladder and handheld bottle Vince informed me that he wasn’t feeling too hot and he would be turning around soon.  He wanted to run a few miles on the North Kaibab trail, but not knowing how well his body would temperature regulate or take in fuel, he didn’t want to push on too hard.  Since I might possibly be fighting daylight later on, we decided it was best for me to go ahead at my own pace and Vince would take his time going back up Bright Angel.

I know what you’re thinking at this point.  “Never separate, this is how fatalities occur.”  True, but I like to think we had a solid plan in place, we were both more than physically capable on taking on the Canyon, and I was carrying more than enough fluid and calories.  Needless to say, I am here writing this report, but I do respect the dangers of Mother Nature and her beautiful and deadly big ditch.

The North Kaibab Trail offered a much different change of scenery.  The trail meandered north along the Bright Angel Creek for a few miles with tall rock walls surrounding on both sides.  This narrow area caused my GPS to lose signal a few times, but it usually caught back up with no significant measured distance lost.

Beginning of the North Kaibab Trail

The trail then opened up to what was probably my favorite section.  The steep walls disappeared and I was now running on an undulating desert trail with open “fields” and plenty of cacti.  I use quotes because that is what it would appear to be for someone with tunnel vision.  It’s hard not to notice the monumentous and snow-covered North Rim ahead, or the equally enormous and snow-covered South Rim behind.  The grade in this section was slightly uphill but my legs were feeling fresh and I was loving life so I kept on at it with a comfortable but fairly decent effort.  So long as I was keeping my heart-rate in the 150’s (or lower), there shouldn’t be need to worry about significant fatigue later in the day.

My favorite section on North Kaibab

Temperatures in the Canyon were now in the 60’s from what I would guess and the sun was shining bright.  It was a seven mile stretch from Phantom Ranch to Cottonwood Campground, but at this time of year the Cottonwood faucets are turned off, causing me to stretch my fluids out for a few more miles.  Cottonwood was a pleasant little oasis with a few trees, fallen leaves, and for the most part empty campsites.

Caretaker’s Cabin or Roaring Springs would be the next opportunity to refuel.  The ranger I spoke to the day before had told me that the faucets at Roaring Springs had just been turned on and that the Caretaker’s Cabin was a crap-shoot.  Either way, I could fill at Roaring Springs and purify if need be.  There was no need for purification since the faucet in front of the Caretaker’s Cabin was spewing water as I approached (they leave faucets dripping to prevent pipe freezing).  This was an interesting little spot since, from what I can tell, a ranger lives here and leaves offerings to hikers on a picnic table out front.  Hell, he even has a basketball hoop for hikers smart enough (?) to pack in a basketball!

Ballin' in the G.C.

The grade of the trail became significantly steeper around this point, causing me to start speed-hiking most of the way.  Roaring Springs requires a slight off-trail detour to get water, but since I had just topped off at the b-ball court I passed right by without checking to verify that the water was indeed on.  Originally, I had thought that Roaring Springs would be where I would turn around.  Some ranger reports indicated that snowy trail sections started around here, but all was clear, I was feeling good, and I had plenty of time to explore further; so I did.

The trail started switchbacking and I was now on the big climb up to North Rim.  Switchbacking up also brought steep drop-offs, so extra caution was taken with each step.  It was nice being on a section of trail that not many people had traveled in the past few months.  The North Rim and all roads leading into it are closed at this time of year, so anyone wanting to reach this section of the North Kaibab has to do so from the South Rim, a task that most are not up for.  This, consequently, meant that as I got up into the snowy trail sections, they weren’t as nicely packed as they were coming down South Kaibab.  Trail was broken but these were individual footprints that post-holed down approximately one foot into what would become almost three feet of snow.

Snow on the upper North Kaibab

It was fairly awkward trying to move fast through these tracks, but it was passable and I wasn’t getting myself into anything I couldn’t get out of.  At one point I came upon a small stream of melting snow that created some crunchiness and a bit of ice.  I found some dry spots for foot placement and carefully passed on through.  Then, not even a quarter-mile later, I came across another bout of melting snow.  This one created a small waterfall from above and a patch of ice that covered roughly eight feet of the trail.  The snow leading up to the ice patch was also covered in ice and was extremely slick.  I approached cautiously but realized passing would bring about significant risk.

Ice = end of the road

And just like that, my trek towards the North Rim came to an end.  Even if I put on my Yaktrax to pass over the ice, likely there would be something similar around the next corner, and the next, and the next.  I had traveled 20 miles, was maybe a mile or two from the North Rim, but oh well; I went as far as I safely could.

Turn around.  Do it again.

Once I passed through the snowy switchbacks, I was able to open up the pace and get some good downhill quad-trashing going on.  Here is where I was able to first feel the effects of the climbing, descending, and overall time on feet.  It wasn’t much, but enough that my body was saying “yeah dude, a couple more hours of this and good luck walking next week.”  Shut up body, I’m the one making the decisions here.

Coming down North Kaibab

Again I blew right by Roaring Springs and stopped at Caretaker’s Cabin.  I filled up my bladder (2/3 of the way for those wondering, and I was also drinking a strong Perpetuem drink mix in my handheld all day) explored down to the creek for a few minutes, and stretched a bit.  I was hoping to get a peek of the elusive Caretaker, but alas, nothing.  Onward!

I was now back at my favorite section of the North Kaibab, only now instead of having a slight incline it was slightly declined, allowing me to really open up and throw down some 7:30 miles at one point.  It felt great.

As Phantom Ranch got closer and I ran along Bright Angel Creek, the steep rock walls reappeared, and at one point, so did a man with two mules.  I didn’t immediately see him since he came around a blind turn and my head was down, but once I saw him it appeared as though he was backing into a crevice to let me by.  Boy was I wrong.  I hadn’t even moved forward five feet before this crotchety old man with a white beard and half his teeth proceeded to yell and chastise me for not immediately stopping.  “Don’t you see that these are mules?  Do you not know the rules?  You don’t know the rules?  Get the hell out of my way and stand over there!  Don’t look at the mules!  Don’t move a muscle until I’m at least 50 feet past.”  Easy there old-timer, this is my first time in the Big Ditch and if you couldn’t tell, I was running and didn’t notice you.  Oh well, lesson learned: stop for mules or feel the wrath of crotchety old guys.

Onwards I proceeded to Phantom Ranch.  Strangely this section seemed to take forever even though I was running at a decent clip.  I finished off my handheld, was almost done with the water in my bladder, and the sun was making things pretty hot at this point.  Phantom Ranch finally appeared and I was extremely grateful.  Sensing that I had just put in a hard effort and that I may be a little behind on calories and fluid, I chugged a bottle of water while I stretched, then went inside and got a snickers bar and an ice cold glass of lemonade.  I had heard somewhere that this was THE meal to get when R2R2R’ing it.  Let me tell you, that one-two punch of sugar and fluid hit the spot!

Yum.

I was now more than 30+ miles  into the run and had roughly 10 miles left… all in the upwards direction to head out of the Canyon.  After spending a good 20 minutes at Phantom Ranch to recharge and loosen up, I headed out.  Rather than using the Black Bridge to cross the mighty Colorado River like we did on the inbound trip, since I was taking the Bright Angel Trail outbound, the Silver Bridge took me across the Colorado.  Standing on the bridge really allows you to understand how much water is rushing by at any given second, and in that sense it allows you to understand how this single river was able to carve out the immensely vast Canyon you are standing in.

Crossing the Colorado

The first mile or two of the Bright Angel trail were decently runnable despite their incline.  As the trail was running parallel to the river, I thought for a minute that I had taken the wrong trail and was running on the River Trail.  However, I knew the River Trail would run back in to Bright Angel with roughly the same mileage, so I didn’t bother stopping to check the map.

The five miles from Phantom Ranch to Indian Gardens took an hour and a half, not bad for a combination of running and hiking.  As expected, the pace slowed down significantly when the climb got steeper a little bit before Indian Gardens.  Indian Gardens itself was a pleasant little oasis with lots of trees, camp sites, and Japanese tourists lying around in the shade looking like they were about to die of fatigue.  I probably looked comparable and would have fit right in with them on the ground, but knowing that only 4.6 miles stood between me and the South Rim, I opted to top off fluids and keep moving instead.

Sign at Indian Gardens. Respect the vegetation!

I was now 7:30 into the run.  In my head I calculated that if I hiked 20 minutes/mile I could make it in right at ten hours.  This seemed reasonable, but then the trail got way steeper, way switchback-ier, and way more of the water erosion bars.  Oh joy!  No cause for concern though, this arbitrary goal was still attainable so long as I kept my head down and speed-hiked like there was no tomorrow, which is what I did.

Ok, ok, I still stopped for pics.

Snow reappeared, but strangely the associated cold temperatures did not seem to necessitate the re-clothing that I had originally imagined.  In my logistical planning I had thought this section would be a slow death march in the cold as the sun was setting.  Miraculously, there was still plenty of daylight and warmth since I had been moving at a decent pace most of the day.

The pace and effort I was putting in to get up to the South Rim also generated a fair amount of body heat, noticeable to at least two people who, as we crossed paths, commented that I needed to keep moving lest I risk freezing to death.  My inner monologue quickly chimed in, “Yes, I am aware that I am the only idiot out here in shorts and a t-shirt, and the size of my pack is vastly inferior to yours, but you are mistaken and I am not the underprepared, in-over-my-shoulders, know-it-all, twenty-something male that you are accustomed to hearing about in Grand Canyon tales of peril.  If only you knew what I’ve been through today.”

Snowy switchbacks

Nonetheless, this was just more motivation to keep moving ahead strong towards the arbitrary 10 hour goal.  I reached the 3-mile rest house at nine hours on the dot.  Perfect.  Then the 1.5-mile rest house at 9:30.  Perfect.  “Let’s not mess this last mile-and-a-half up” I thought to myself.  The head went down and the arms started pumping to dictate the pace.  Round and round I went through the switchbacks until the Bright Angel trail head finally appeared.

I tagged the South Rim at 10:03 with the Garmin reading 43.1 miles.  Good enough for government work!

Done.

I hunched over the fence of the mule corral to rest.  I was elated to have survived a mostly-solo, faster-than-anticipated, and nearly-completed in less-than-ideal conditions R2R2R.  I really wish Vince could have been able to join me in more of the journey, but you have to play the hand you are dealt, and there is always next time.  He ended up running for about an hour on the North Kaibab, getting in a total of 25 miles or so with a nice little Rim-to-River-to-Rim.  Not too shabby of a run for a dude battling some serious sickness!

As I was hunched there, a few people at the trail head asked if I had just been down to the river.  Trying not to sound too egotistical (a common battle for me as an ultrarunner, proud of what I have accomplished but also wanting others to be proud of what they can accomplish, no matter the distance), I explained I had indeed been down to the river, twice.  Flabbergasted, they offered congratulations.  While the congratulations were wonderful, I was really hoping someone would offer me a ride back to my lodge.  Nada.

“Thanks everyone.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go pathetically stumble back to my lodge.”

—————

Link: My R2R2R pictures on Flickr

Cupid’s Undie Run

Pants on the ground.  Pants on the ground.  Looking like an undierunner with your pants on the ground.

Wow.  How can I even begin to describe the first ever Cupid’s Undie Run?  From the beginning I guess…

Right around New Years, my roommate Brendan had the idea to do a charity run for the Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF), an organization that raises funds for children suffering from neurofibromatosis (NF), a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on the nerves throughout the body.  Unlike other charity events that come up with an idea first and then seek out a worthy charity, our good friend Chad’s younger brother Drew is afflicted with NF so raising funds for CTF was the absolute #1 goal from the get-go.

Brendan eventually settled on an underwear run, knowing that runners and non-runners alike tend to flock to novelty events that teeter on the verge of crazy, and you don’t get much crazier than a combination of running, partial-nudity, frigid cold temperatures, public landmarks and plenty of alcohol.  I like to think that my participation in the 2009 Kona Underpants Run played a factor in deciding to do an undie run, but there is no way Brendan will ever admit to it.

Nevertheless, once the idea and date were decided upon, Brendan, Chad, our friend Lauren and I all began the arduous task of planning the inaugural Cupid’s Undie Run with only four weeks until race day.  It was a hectic four weeks and our initial estimate of 60 runners was quickly surpassed as sponsors and prominent media attention came pouring in.

Fast forward to the night before the run and we already had 340 registrants (and we had only ordered 300 shirts thinking we would have plenty of leftovers).  We shut down online registration and held our breaths not knowing what to expect the following day.

Undie Madness outside of the Pour House

Apparently word had spread!  Close to 450 runners ended up braving the cold temperatures to run a brisk 1.75 miles around the Capitol Building.  The bar estimated 600 total occupants for the party… pretty much at capacity for the entire building!  Those that showed up at noon were able to partake in the discounted and sometimes free drinks, thus giving them some added warmth and liquid courage to strip down into their skivvies.   UPS had only delivered 1 of the 4 boxes of t-shirts due to the recent snowpocalypse that hit the DC area, but with free-flowing drinks no one seemed to mind.

At 2:00pm the masses made their way outside (in groups of 50 for legal reasons) and, with plenty of onlookers and media reporters hurrying to snap as many photos as possible, they ran and shuffled past walls of snow sometimes 6 feet high and often with only enough space for single-file.

Baring it all around the Capitol. Photo courtesy of Håvar Espedal. No reproduction.

Since we did not have permits in place to close off the roads, runners had to wait at the stoplight before crossing Pennsylvania Avenue.  It sounds cheap, I know, but this is what happens when you only have 4 weeks to plan an event!  Besides, it allowed us to throw in some group push-ups and jumping jacks, thus keeping folks moving, warm, and wondering what in the world they had gotten themselves in to.

Muscle Milk, Honest Tea and Georgetown Cupcake were all on hand at the finish to refuel runners and prepare them for the party that lie ahead.  In addition, there were plenty of high-demand prizes that were raffled off, including fancy lingerie from Coup de Foudre, lots of Under Armour gear, a massage from A Calmness Within (my massage therapist Clyde), Boomerang Bus passes, Shamrockfest and DC United tickets, and last but certainly not least a free tandem skydive from West Point Skydiving Adventures with a free hotel stay at the Wyndham Virginia Crossing.  Wow, talk about getting a bang for your buck!

…and now comes my confession.  I didn’t make it to my own event.  Well, I at least didn’t make it on time for the actual Undie Run.  Since I am competing in the Beast Series (again) this year, I had to run the Holiday Lake 50k down near Lynchburg, VA that same morning.  I ran as fast as I could (4th place ain’t too shabby), didn’t hang around at the finish and drove like a madman to make it back to the undie fun as quickly as possible.

Miraculously, someone had left me a parking spot open right in front of the bar as I arrived at 4:00pm.  I parked, changed into some red undies, walked in, stripped off my clothes, put on my red top hat and proceeded to make sure that the party kept going strong.  After all, happier runners equal more donations to CTF!  I like to think I was successful, as shown by the photo below from the Washington Examiner.

Jen, me and Alyssa. Photo courtesy of Lisa Kilday. No reproduction.

All in all, we grossed around $12,000, and with the little overhead required to put on the event this year, just about $10,000 of that was donated to CTF.   More than a week has passed since the event and I am still in shock over how this all came together so quickly and so fluidly.  The excitement, support, media attention and money raised all far-exceeds Brendan’s, Chad’s, Lauren’s and my wildest dreams.

Thank you.  Thank you.  THANK YOU to everyone who made the inaugural Cupid’s Undie Run a smashing success!  The bar has been set high for next year… but we’ve got some tricks up our sleeves to make it even bigger and better!

Click here for a compilation of all the various media coverage links.

Click here for links to Cupid’s Undie Run on facebook and twitter.

snOMG Holiday Lake 50k++

If I had to sum up the 2010 Holiday Lake 50k++ in 4 words, I’d have to go with: “Snow. More snow. Ouch.”

A snowy start

Seriously, the presence of 6″ of crunchy snow turned what is usually a flat, fast, first-timer friendly 50k into one heck of a challenge that I was NOT expecting at this point in my race calendar.  Last year at Holiday Lake I ran my 50k PR in 4:10, good for 11th place but resulting in some nasty ITBS that left me unable to compete in my planned spring races.  Knowing this, I went into this year’s race telling myself that I was out there to run my own race and not compete for top-10, no matter how much instigating I got from Horty.

Let’s backtrack a second and start from the beginning: my supposed 3.5 hour commute down to the race start which ended up taking 6 hours due to glorious snow traffic on the lone day that government employees had to report to work this week.  Arghhh!  This caused me to miss the pre-race briefing and pre-race meal; thankfully I came prepared with my own dinner and rather than enduring hours of hunger, I only had to endure a cold piece of salmon, a cold sweet potato, and the awkward preparation of said food as I drove in stop-and-go traffic.  Yum?  Hey, whatever gets the job done.

Weather forecast was calling for temps in the teens, reaching mid-20′s with the occasional chance of flurries.  We woke Saturday morning to find a fresh inch or two of powder and temps closer to 30.  This just meant less clothing needed at the start and a few extra inches of white stuff to suck away the energy of every footstep.

At 6:30am we headed off into the “darkness”, but the presence of moon-lit snow made the use of headlamps absolutely unnecessary (Sidebar: Hey Clark, you have my headlamp, I’ll get it at Terrapin).  Matt Woods, the #1 seed and fellow Tuesday-night WUS runner, quickly took the lead as we headed a half-mile up the pavement to our turn onto the trail.  My screw shoes were audibly noticeable I’m sure, but later on I would become extremely grateful for going screwed rather than regular-shoed or Yaktrax’ed (yeah, I just made up some words… tough).

Matt Woods throwing it down

Once we hit the trail it became painfully obvious that today’s race was a horse of a different color.  Half a foot of crunchy snow forced us front-runners to high-step like a footballer through car tires, and with each step came the process of “step, crunch, drop down, stumble, lift, repeat”.  We all appeared to be searching for footsteps from those in front of us that matched our desired stride length and placement.  With all my barefooting as of late, I was unable to find someone with a matching short stride and was left running with the rhythm of a 4-year-old playing drums on Rock Band for the first time.  It had to have been equally comical.

Icy Pond Crossings

With not much elevation change and all the crunchy white stuff looking the same for miles and miles on end, there’s not much to report on for the first half of the run.  No rhythm, high-stepping and knowing that I was going to be out there much longer than originally planned led me to be downright miserable.  I even gave serious consideration to dropping from the race at the turnaround.  After all, I had the inaugural Cupid’s Undie Run waiting for me back in DC, an event that my roommate and I had organized without first considering my need to redeem myself in the Beast Series this year.  I voiced these sentiments to my buddy Jack Kurisky whom I was running with at the turnaround and he quickly slapped me back into reality.  I had unfinished business with the Beast, and no matter how much misery I was in or how many half-naked runner gals waited for me at a bar back home, I had to finish this stupid race.

Me starting my 2nd loop

…so on I went.  Counting the passing runners at the turnaround I found myself in 8th place and 2:39 in to the “fun”.  Hmm, I was about 40 minutes slower than last year but in a much better placement, guess the conditions were equally challenging for everyone else!  As I made my way onto the second loop (this time in the clockwise direction) I started passing a large number of runners in the final portion of their first loop who were only minutes behind.  The trail conditions, while wet, were becoming much more tolerable and runnable.  I was finally able to get into a groove and zone out.  Yes!  Thank you, Jack, for not letting me drop!

My hip flexors were sore from the 16 miles of high-stepping, but with my new-found ability to actually run, I became a much happier camper.  The miles ticked away and so did the number of runners who remained between me and the finish.  I wasn’t purposefully passing folks, but I had a mantra going in my head and it was motivating me to get to that finish line.  “Gotta get to the Undie Run, gotta get to the Undie Run, gotta get to the Undie Run.”  Hey, whatever does the trick, right?

More (fun?) snowy trail

I also knew that the faster I cruised along and the closer I got to the finish, the greater my chances of doing something stupid like blowing up or getting injured.  Neither of those are on my to-do list so I tried my best to maintain a steady but reasonable pace.  I hadn’t set out to race, and I didn’t think I was putting in race effort for a good portion of it, but now that I found myself in 4th place I realized I in fact was pushing a bit harder than originally planned, and since I had put in all that effort to get there, might as well not blow it at the end.

At one point I slowed to a walk near a hill and felt my hammies tighten up.  This was a sure sign that I was getting pretty fatigued, so I told myself no walking until the finish line is crossed.  It may have also been a sign that I was low on electrolytes, so I popped another S-cap.  The plan seemed to work and the hammies cooperated through the finish.

I honestly expected to get passed in the last mile by some marathon runner doing his first ultra like I did last year, but thankfully this year I was able to maintain a solid distance from others.  The final half-mile downhill on pavement is much more enjoyable when you’re able to run it at your own pace and you’re not tapping in to imaginary energy reserves trying to run down some speed demon who took your top-10 slot.

I crossed the finish in 5:10 and in 4th place, an hour slower than last year but in a much better placement.  Was this year’s field less competitive?  Did I get better?  Am I better suited for racing in difficult conditions whereas others who normally do well at Holiday Lake are not?  Who knows, but it was one hell of a race.

Oh yeah, I stuck around the finish line for all of 5 minutes before going to grab a shower and hitting the road.  Much fun was had at Cupid’s Undie Run, but I’ll save that for it’s own separate post ;-)

All pictures courtesy of Doug Sullivan.

Full race results here.

The inaugural Cupid’s Undie Run!

Announcing the inaugural Cupid’s Undie Run, a 2-mile run in your skivvies around the heart of our nation’s capital (the Capitol Building to be exact)!  With all proceeds going to the Children’s Tumor Foundation, a $30 registration fee will get you a nifty looking t-shirt, drink specials, food, raffles and giveaways.  Partaking in the libations pre-run is encouraged 1) so everyone has a good time, 2) to warm you up before braving the cold temps, and 3) to give you more courage to strip down to those undies!

I wouldn’t call myself an expert, per-se, at underwear runs, but having run the Kona Underpants Run back in October, I can say that they are a TON of fun.  Seriously, running in your underwear sounds embarrassing, but the excitement of doing something ludicrous with a bunch of other crazies makes it all worth the while.  I highly recommend that everyone attend and spread the word.

Running in my underoos!

I’ll be running the Holiday Lake 50k that same morning, and with Holiday Lake being 3.5 hours away there is unfortunately no way for me to do both.  I will, however, run as fast as reasonably possible at Holiday Lake (don’t want to get hurt again this year!) and then do the same with my driving.  If my timing is correct, I should be arriving about an hour after the run, but that should give me plenty of time to partake in the post-run festivities for the rest of the afternoon/evening.  Hope to see you all there, and don’t forget to register beforehand!

(I know, this isn’t my usual type of post, but the event is being organized by some of my close friends, it’s for a great cause and let’s be honest, it’s going to be a ton of fun.  Also, I was called out earlier today for slacking on my blogging, so take THAT unnamed complainer!)

2009 Recap

2100 miles for the year. Not too shabby, but nowhere near what I thought I’d be running. Last year I ran 1962, and it was my first year running, so clearly I thought I’d surpass 2000 with ease, possibly even hit 3 or 4. Looking back, here were my 2009 goals (and the resulting outcomes in bold):

  • First 100-miler (MMT on 5/16)  Fail.  DNS due to ITBS in the weeks leading up to the race
  • Complete the Beast Series Fail.  DNF at Grindstone due to AT tendinitis
  • Eat healthier so as to be better prepared for above mentioned races Kinda held up this one, moreso towards the end of the year but not as much in the beginning
  • Become more flexible to prevent annoying little running injuries  Fail.  A visit to the PT recently suggested that THIS is what might be causing all my injuries.
  • Skydive more, or at least do more fun jumping (as opposed to work jumping)  Fail.  Did about 60 jumps (but no working jumps so I guess that’s a plus?)
  • Blog more often (because let’s be honest, I’m an engineer not a writer, so it’s hard to sit down and type willingly)  Fail again.

Well looks like I had a successful year, huh?  1/2 out of 6 ain’t too bad!  In all seriousness, it was somewhat of a bummer year for accomplishing pre-specified goals, but I have to say I definitely had my good share of races.  I started the year off with a bang, running a 4:10 PR at Holiday Lake 50k.  That’s when injury hit, but I recovered (not in time for MMT sadly) and had a good summer crewing at Badwater and running my first 100k out in Oregon at Where’s Waldo.  Despite my DNF at Grindstone, I’m proud that I was able to hold 9th place and be on pace for a sub-24 difficult 100 miler with only 15 miles to go.  In the past month or so I’ve started doing more strength-training, cross-training, and I’ve started eating a paleolithic diet (which is anti-inflammatory among other things), all of which should greatly help my 2010 running.

So what does 2010 have in store?  Well, the exact same thing as 2009.  Just copy and paste those exact same 2009 goals (though the amount of skydiving will probably stay the same, but it’s a nice thought).  I really think I can redeem myself this coming year.  2009 was my first full year of ultrarunning, and although I was able to get my run training up to snuff, I was lacking in the associated strength, flexibility and nutrition areas.  I think I’ve got it figured out now, but come back in a year and we’ll see!

Happy 2010 everyone.  Stay healthy!

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